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Covid-19 Vaccine Trials Have a Problem: Minority Groups Don’t Trust Them – The Wall Street Journal



Chinedu Osondu, a potential participant in a vaccine trial, met with Cynthia Steele, right, a research coordinator, to receive informed-consent information and provide his medical history, in Atlanta last month.


Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The Wall Street Journal.

Researchers and companies developing Covid-19 vaccines are taking new steps to tackle a longtime challenge: People who need the vaccines most urgently, including Blacks and Latinos, are least likely to participate in clinical trials to determine whether they work safely.

Racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be hospitalized and die from the new coronavirus, partly due to socioeconomic factors and underlying health conditions, data show. But clinical trials to evaluate drugs and vaccines historically underrepresent minorities, and researchers are concerned enrollment now under way to test Covid-19 vaccines will be no different.

While thousands of Americans have shown interest in testing vaccines, they are mostly young, white and healthy, according to researchers. Public-health officials say vaccines, to be effective, have to be proved to work safely across all age groups, races and ethnicities—and especially among those at high risk of contracting the virus.

Recruiters have to overcome several hurdles in high-risk populations: misinformation, decades of mistrust of health-care and government institutions, and fresh tensions around discrimination in the U.S.

To do so, researchers are joining with community leaders, churches and advocacy organizations to educate about the benefits of vaccination. They are trying to reach potential subjects through social media and minority physicians. And they are hoping that simply testing the vaccines in locations with high proportions of minority populations will draw interest.

“You have to be able to get into some of these communities where there may not be as much experience or trust for science, and just be very convincing in helping people understand why this is important for their health,” said Dr. Angela Branche of the University of Rochester Medical Center, in New York, which began testing a Covid-19 vaccine from

Pfizer Inc.

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BioNTech SE

last week.

With Covid-19 vaccine testing moving quickly, some scientists are skeptical that drugmakers will sign off on wide-ranging recruitment strategies. “Everybody’s against the gun in terms of enrolling as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Kathryn Stephenson, director of the clinical-trials unit in the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “Nobody’s really going to want to wait around for those efforts to mature.”

Vaccines are considered crucial to stopping the spread of the coronavirus, and pivotal studies seeking 30,000 participants, including one led by Pfizer, are under way. Food and Drug Administration guidelines for Covid-19 vaccines say the agency “encourages” enrollment of racial and ethnic minorities, but doesn’t require it for approval.

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It’s far from business as usual at the Indianapolis headquarters of Eli Lilly, with only a sixth of the pharma company’s employees working on-site to develop potential Covid-19 treatments. WSJ’s Peter Loftus takes us inside. Photo: Eli Lilly

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said recent social upheaval sparked by the death of George Floyd has likely added to feelings of mistrust between minority groups and government or pharmaceutical companies. “Yet we need their participation if this is going to have a meaningful outcome,” he said. “We’ve got work to do.”

Covid-19 hospitalization rates for Blacks and Latinos are nearly five times that of whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Blacks suffer almost one-quarter of Covid-19-related deaths in the U.S., though they make up only about 13% of the population.

The drug industry has a poor record of minority participation in clinical trials, according to research and industry officials. Last year, Blacks made up about 9% of participants in trials for novel drugs while nearly three out of every four subjects were white, according to the FDA.

Some experts say efforts to diversify enrollment add to the cost of running a trial, and challenges including lack of access to basic health care and transportation in some communities make recruitment difficult. But the bigger problem, they say, is deep-rooted mistrust of health-care authorities after a tainted history of unethical medical experimentation on Blacks and other minorities.

A poster seeking volunteers for the large study of a potential Covid-19 vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y.


Hans Pennink/Associated Press

A well-known example is the Tuskegee syphilis study, which began in the 1930s and went on for 40 years. Black men who participated weren’t informed of the true nature of the research and were even deprived of penicillin when it was found to be an effective treatment.

Scientists are working on helping people understand the benefits of vaccines. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that just over half of Black adults would be willing to get a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine, compared with about three-quarters of white adults.

“The biggest thing is trust-building,“ said Dr. Kawsar Talaat, assistant professor in the department of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. ”If you give people information, recruitment is not so hard.”

The government’s “lack of leadership and clear messaging around Covid in general has further eroded whatever trust there was in the public-health system,” said Dr. Toyin Ajayi, Chief Health Officer of Cityblock Health, a health-care provider focused on underserved communities. To overcome the mistrust, researchers are strategizing with community groups and churches.

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The National Black Church Initiative, which includes about 150,000 U.S. churches, is working with

Moderna Inc.

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after contacting the drugmaker about collaborating on enrollment. Pastors will help educate church members about vaccines and encourage them to enroll, said Rev. Anthony Evans, president of NBCI, which has worked with the industry on more than a dozen trials before Covid-19.

“We want to be included. We don’t want to be thought of afterward,” he said. “And since the disease is impacting the African-American community greater than any other community, we demand that.”


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Researchers are trying to reach potential subjects though minority physicians, radio shows and community media outlets. They are making sure advertisements feature minorities, and that medical pamphlets are translated from English faster than usual.

Companies also are recruiting in areas with high minority populations.

In McAllen, Texas, along the Mexican border, where about 85% of the population is Hispanic, Headlands Research’s Centex Studies is enrolling study subjects for vaccine trials.

“You need to go where the population is,” said Headlands Chief Executive Mark Blumling, whose company is seeking 9,000 subjects across several sites to test vaccines.


Would you participate in a Covid-19 vaccine trial? Why or why not? Join the conversation below.

Sanofi SA,

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which expects to test its first Covid-19 vaccine in humans in September, will try to reach minorities by conducting late-stage testing in Latin America, Europe and Asia, said Sanjay Gurunathan, who oversees vaccine trials at the French company.

Vaccines tested in partnership with the NIH, such as Moderna’s and


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PLC’s, will harness research sites that are part of longstanding networks that were used to test HIV vaccines, and have years of experience recruiting minorities through community outreach, said Larry Corey, an infectious-disease specialist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who is advising the NIH on its vaccine trials.

On Sunday at New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Cincinnati, researchers from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center explained to the congregation the importance of Black Americans’ enrolling in vaccine trials. Afterward, Pastor Damon Lynch Jr. asked the congregants to tell others. “When you leave, you go out and you tell them what you learned today,” he said. “We want you, when this stuff becomes a reality, to fight to get it to our communities.”

Write to Jared S. Hopkins at

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News Releases | COVID-19 Bulletin #198 –



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Public information, contact Manitoba Government Inquiry: 1-866-626-4862 or 204-945-3744.

Media requests for general information, contact Communications Services Manitoba: 204-945-3765.

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Parents, epidemiologists unsurprised by COVID cases in Sask. schools –



Eight cases of COVID-19 have now been identified in Saskatchewan schools — the latest was found earlier this week at Valley Manor Elementary School in Martensville, Sask. 

However, a professor in the department of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, says this was to be expected as children returned to their classrooms this fall.

“I’m certainly not surprised,” said Dr. Cory Neudorf. “We’ve known right from the start that this pandemic tends to affect adults and older people more in terms of symptoms. And since a lot of the testing has been focused on people with symptoms and those wanting to go back to work, we haven’t had as much uptake in testing from children. 

“Now that we’re doing a little more testing in that age group, we expect to be finding a certain number of positives, both in terms of those who may have had mild symptoms and those with no symptoms at all.”

Professor Cory Neudorf, an epidemiologist from the University of Saskatchewan, says parents should take their children for a flu shot as soon as possible. (

Janine Muyres’ three children attend City Park School in Saskatoon. For her, the transition to distance learning last winter was “kind of like having labour — when you’re in it, it’s hell, and when you’re out, you think ,’Well, that wasn’t so bad.'”

When Muyres found out her children could go back to their classrooms this fall, she was relieved to know that distance learning was off the table, at least for now. 

Janine Muyres (second from right) with her children Niko, Stella and Macy. (Submitted by Janine Muyres)

“I remember telling my coworkers, ‘I don’t care if the kids have to wear a HAZMAT suit, they’re going back to school,’ she said.

“I’d been hanging on all summer with my fingers crossed, thinking ‘It’s got to go back, because I can’t do that to my kids again. I can’t put them through that.’ 

“I was just so busy with work. I couldn’t watch over them and make sure their assignments were getting done.”

Flu season

With cold and flu season on the horizon, as well as fall allergies to contend with, Neudorf urged parents to take their children for flu shots as soon as possible and exercise caution when sending them to school with any health symptoms in the months ahead. 

“I can imagine it’s going to get very frustrating to have mild symptoms leading to multiple tests being done and disruptions to work and family life,” he said. “This is the short-term reality we’re in this year. 

“In the meantime, we do what we can with physical distancing, mask wearing, washing hands, using sanitizer and limiting your close circle of who you’re interacting with.”

For Neudorf, a case of COVID-19 in a school community can be a sign for administrators and public health officials to review their existing policies and question what could be done differently going forward. 

“Whenever we see cases in a school, that’s a chance to re-look and ask if there is anything we could have done differently in terms of screening, keeping kids home when they’re sick … and contact tracing,” he said.

“Every time there’s a case or a cluster, it’s time to look at that in the context of that school and say, is there anything we could be doing differently here? We’re essentially learning as we go.” 

Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation, is concerned about how quickly teachers are being asked to change on a dime as the school year progresses. 

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president Patrick Maze says teachers are still being reassigned to other positions. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

“From what I’m hearing, lots of teachers are kind of hanging by a thread and hoping that they can get through day to day at this point,” he said. “It is an unprecedentedly stressful time. 

“I have lots of members who have been told — this late into the month already — that they’re changing their positions, switching subjects or going to online learning. And we’re asking that teachers be patient and roll with the punches, but at some point, we get to the fact that it’s very difficult to change what you teach this late into September.”

Maze has commended school faculty and staff for their thorough implementation of COVID safety protocols, but believes large class sizes and after-school activities may still fuel in-school transmission. 

“Whether it’s practices or different events in the community, it’s a bit frustrating, because I know that schools have put in a tremendous amount of work to cohort students … and do block scheduling,” he said. “And that will all come undone if we continue to try to run things as normal in the evenings, as far as clubs and activities and events. So we’re hoping that the community can also do its part in order to help us keep the measures that have been put in place in schools to keep everyone safe.”

As for Muyres, she is working on sending her children out the door in the morning with a realistic perspective on this unique school year. 

“I tell my kids, we’re not going to live in fear,” she said.

“We’re not going to let this consume our life, and nobody’s going to develop anxiety over this. This is here, it’s happening right now, here’s what you can do to prevent it. And we’re just going to go ahead until otherwise directed by health officials.” 

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COVID-19 in Sask: Here's what we know ahead of the next update – CTV News



Here’s what we know ahead of Saskatchewan’s next update on COVID-19 cases in the province.


Saskatchewan reported 10 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of active cases to 146.

In a release, the province said six new cases are in Saskatoon, two are in Regina, one is in the far north east zone and one is in the central west zone.

Two of the new cases in Saskatoon are linked to a previously reported outbreak identified at Brandt Industries. To date, 19 cases have been connected to this cluster, the province said.


Premier Scott Moe says people should keep gathering sizes low to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, stressing they could face penalties if they don’t comply.

He said on Monday the vast majority of people are obeying the rules, but there have been some instances of individuals going out of bounds.

“We need to be careful,” Moe said during a press conference. “One infected person at the wrong place at the wrong time can turn into dozens of additional cases.”

The warnings come after a house gathering in Saskatoon caused cases to increase in that city.


The province announced on Tuesday it will be increasing testing in Saskatchewan, hoping to meet a goal of 4,000 tests per day.

Starting this week, Saskatchewan Health Authority labs will implement pooled testing of asymptomatic swabs.

This will allow labs to test more specimens with fewer testing materials and increase testing output, the SHA said in a news release.

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